This is one complicated story in the Idaho Statesman. The gist of it is: two Uzbek refugees (from a government crackdown in the Andijan region of Uzbekistan) living in Boise, ages 29 and 33 died exactly one month apart in 2006. The cause of death is still unknown. In the wake of their mysterious deaths, others in their refugee community have packed up and returned to Uzbekistan.
Refugee resettlement agencies aren’t saying much, and the FBI says it has not been involved (even though it appears it may have been).
Boise’s two mysterious deaths have been discussed at the United Nations, may have attracted the attention of the FBI (though adding to the intrigue, the agency denies it), and could have helped spur a wave of refugee returns that experts say is almost unprecedented.
Around the time the two men died, Uzbek refugees living in the U.S. and other countries began returning to their homeland amid allegations the Uzbek authorities were pressuring them to come back. The most recent wave included several refugees from Boise who left this month, even as the U.S. State Department added Uzbekistan to its list of the top 10 violators of human rights.
Now, almost two years after the deaths, most of the refugees and even the local people who work with them still refuse to talk about what could have happened to the two men.
Of the 250 Andijan refugees who spent more than a year in refugee camps in Kyrgyzstan and Romania before being relocated to the U.S., between one-third and one-half have since returned to the country from which they fled.
The first group, 12 refugees in Arizona, left in July 2006. The most recent group, about a dozen refugees, left Boise earlier this month.
The refugees’ return to Uzbekistan has some human rights and refugee organizations baffled – and wondering whether the country was indeed pressuring its citizens to return.
“It is extremely rare, in my experience the idea or situation of a group returning en masse, together is unprecedented,” said Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, who has worked with thousands of refugees over 20 years.
By the way, the government of Uzbekistan claims it was putting down an uprising of Islamic extremists in Andijan, a claim which is disputed by human rights workers.
This is a very confusing story for many reasons. One thing that makes no sense is why would a government go to such extremes to bring a few emigres back to Uzbekistan.
I also wonder why the refugee agency involved is being so silent, you would think they would want to help solve the mysterious deaths of refugees they helped resettle.